Nearby is the grave of Claude Sophie O'Shea who was born on 15 February 1882 and died on 21 April 1882. The inscription says "In memory of our lost darling [...] erected by her Mother and Father" Her father was Charles Stewart Parnell, described by Gladstone as the most remarkable person he had ever met. Parnell was an Irish MP for the Home Rule League. He organised the Irish Parliamentary Party, making it highly efficient. In the process, he invented the party whip system, enabling the party to work as a bloc in Parliament and hold the balance of power.
His Parliamentary career began to fall apart when he was cited as co-respondent in the divorce proceedings that Captain William O'Shea started against his wife Katherine O'Shea (Parnell used the nickname "Kitty" and this was seized on by his opponents: the name being not only a diminutive of Katherine but also a contemporary slang word for a prostitute.) The relationship began when Parnell started visiting the O'Shea's at Wonersh Lodge in Eltham.
Parnell refused to resign as leader of the party, and consequently, the party split into factions, eventually leading to his downfall. Joyce wrote an essay "the Shade of Parnell" which concluded:
In his final desperate appeal to his countrymen, he begged them not to throw him as a sop to the English wolves howling around them. It redounds to their honour that they did not fail this appeal. They did not throw him to the English wolves; they tore him to pieces themselves.Apparently Charles and Kitty could be seen regularly on Sundays in Chislehurst, holding hands as they walked to place flowers on little Claude Sophie's grave which they had marked with a Celtic Cross.
Inside the Church, there is a monument to the Prince Imperial Eugène Louis John Joseph. He was the only child of Napoleon III and the empress Eugénie: the family fled to Chislehurst during the Franco-Prussian war. The Prince Imperial died fighting for the British in Zululand.
Napoleon III was himself buried for a time at Chislehurst but his remains were later moved to the new Abbey of Farnborough when the Empress could not realise her wish to extend St Mary's to provide an adequate mausoleum. Here is the monument in the side chapel of the Church:
And finally, a grave that is of great interest to Catholics today. Michael Davies, the author of Cranmer's Godly Order and several other books criticising the liturgical reforms carried out in the wake of Vatican II. As well as being a prolific author, Michael was a popular and effective primary school teacher. He was a great friend of my father and they used to campaign together in the 1970s against the "new catechetics" which was destroying the faith of teachers and children.
They campaigned successfully against the infamous "Corpus Christi College of Education" in London which disseminated the new catechetics among priests, sisters and RE teachers. Opened by the Bishops in 1967, the College was closed by Cardinal Heenan in 1972 after my father and Michael Davies went to see him to complain about the College, showing him the leaflet the College had produced, entitled "Never say Jesus is God full stop!"
I had the privilege of assisting as subdeacon at Michael's Requiem Mass at St Mary's.